Mastering Vocabulary on the ISEE/SSAT Tests

The key to performing well on the verbal sections of the ISEE and SSAT tests is mastering vocabulary. One of the main ways to understand how words are built is to study prefixes and roots. It is important to be able to break words that you do not recognize into pieces and decipher the meanings, because it’s better to be able to understand how words are made up than to just memorize them by rote. 

For example, the word “immutable” can be broken up into its individual pieces, if you’re not able to memorize the word on its own. Think about where you have seen the root, “mut,” before. Maybe in “mutation”? “Mutant”? It means “to change.” What does the prefix “im/in” mean? It means “the opposite of.” So “immutable” means “unchangeable.”  

While you are working on mastering vocabulary and doing this, think about what other words you can break apart based on where you’ve heard parts of those words before, in a different context. 

How about “mercurial”? If you know what mercury is, it’s a form of liquid metal that changes shape easily. “Mercurial” means a person with changing and unpredictable moods. How about “novice” or “novel”? What do these words have in common? The “nov” is the root in both, and both have to do with the beginning of something (novel is not just a book, it also means a new idea). 

You can perform so much better on this test by having this skill of deciphering words than just by memorizing words on their own. 

In the table below, practice breaking words into their parts to understand the meaning. 

Word Word Parts Meaning
confide con + fide “con” means “with,” and “fide” comes from the root that means “trust,” so this means “to trust in somebody”
consequently con + sequently “con” means “with,” and “sequently” means “in order,” so this means “as a result”
misnomer mis + nomer “mis” means “wrong,” and “nomer” means “name,” so this means “an inaccurate name”
convivial con + vivial “con” means “with,” and “vivial” means “life,” so this means “lively”
infidel in + fidel “in” means “not,” and “fidel” means “trust,” so this means “someone who is unfaithful”
technophile techno + phile “techno” means “technology,” and “phile” means “love,” so this means “someone who loves technology”
supervise super + vise “super” means “over,” and “vise” means “to see,” so this means “to watch over”
monotonous mono + tonous “mono” means “one,” and “tonous” means “sound,” so this means “one continuous sound”
malodorous mal + odorous “mal” means “bad,” and odorous means “smell,” so this means “something that smells bad”
megaphone mega + phone “mega” means “big,” and “phone” relates to “sound,” so a “megaphone” makes a big sound
contradict contra + dict “contra” means “against,” and “dict” means “speak,” so this means “to speak out against”

It is so important to study your prefixes, roots, and vocabulary words as described above, because your verbal score depends on it. It is very challenging to perform well on the verbal section of the tests without a strong ability to analyze words and their meanings.

Our ISEE/SSAT test prep program is customized to address each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and we will develop a customized preparation plan to arm your child with powerful and up-to-date strategies for all sections of the test. Mastering vocabulary can be a cinch with our help. 

Click here to learn more about our ISEE/SSAT test prep programs.

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